Cruise ship passengers docking in Shanghai could soon be allowed a 72-hour visa-free stay, the city’s tourism administration said Tuesday.

Tourism authorities hope a visa-free scheme will give a boost to the city cruise sector, centered around the Wusong International Cruise Terminal in Baoshan District.

Last year, a similar scheme launched at the city’s airports for transit passengers from 45 countries attracted more than 15,000 foreign visitors.

A spokesperson for the cruise terminal said the policy will be convenient for tourists and encourage cruise operators to provide diversified products.

Shanghai is aiming to become a cruise ship center equal to Singapore and Hong Kong by the end of 2015.

The city will also expand cruise routes and attempt to open ones to Taiwan, said Yang Jinsong, director of the Shanghai Tourism Administration.

Fewer overseas tourists

Meanwhile, the number of tourists to Shanghai from overseas countries fell for the second year in 2013, Yang said.

Around 7.55 million overseas tourists were recorded last year, down 5.7 percent from 2012. Foreign exchange earnings were US$5.3 billion — a decline of 5.1 percent on the previous year.

The bureau did not give an explanation for the decline.

Among initiatives for this year, the bureau said it would encourage joint ventures between domestic and foreign travel agencies in Shanghai’s pilot free trade zone.